Mind matters

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It’s April 15, 2020. Ashley Bloomfield reports 20 new cases of COVID-19 at the 1pm briefing. Everyone except essential workers is confined to their bubbles.

Looking back, if you felt stressed at this point of the lockdown, you weren’t alone. A survey of 2000 New Zealanders between April 15 and 18, 2020, revealed that Alert Level 4 negatively affected our wellbeing. In this snapshot, captured by researchers at the University of Otago, one-third of people surveyed felt moderate to high distress, with young people more likely to feel anxious. For some people, the lockdown intensified serious issues, with rates of family violence and suicidal feelings increasing. Our alcohol consumption patterns changed, too: 20 per cent of people drank more, and 20 per cent drank less.

For many, social media became the primary means of connecting with people beyond their bubble. Social media has a reputation as a driver of poor mental health, but new research suggests that how we socialise online affects us in different ways. Young people who spend more time posting updates, links and photos publicly have a higher risk of self-harm. Those who tend to compare themselves negatively with the highly curated online personas of others also report higher risk. In contrast, using social media to privately message friends appears to have a protective effect, associated with lower risk of self-harm.

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